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How to stand out as an employer in a competitive job market?

— General HR

How to stand out as an employer in a competitive job market?

How to stand out as an employer in a competitive job market? How to persuade interested candidates to choose your organisation over your closest competitors? And above all: how to make sure your best employees stay? 

Ask Hendrik Seuntjens (Ambassify) and Yves Pilet (employer branding specialist) and they will give you one clear answer: employer branding. According to Hendrik and Yves, organisations can make a difference by defining their own employer value proposition, communicating it and measuring its impact across communication channels. But, as in most cases, this is easier said than done … 

Step 1: Who are you as an employer?

Defining who you are as an employer: in theory, this might seem like a logical starting point, but the reality is that companies don’t pay a lot of attention to this phase. Organisations have a tendency to communicate even before knowing what they actually want to communicate. To make sure companies reach their goal, Yves Pilet advises them to choose a clear direction and find their own employer value proposition by answering three questions:

  • "How do we want to be perceived as an employer?" 
  • "How do our employees actually perceive us as an employer?"
  • "How does the outside world see us as an employer?

Three different questions with ideally one and the same answer. Yves Pilet: "The art of employer branding is to make sure the answers people give to these three questions overlap." The greater the similarity between vision ("How do we want to be perceived as an organisation?") and identity ("How do our employers perceive us as an employer?"), the greater your credibility. In other words: a new employee who notices that you keep your promises will also stay longer. 

Besides creating a clear value proposition, it is also important for companies to choose and communicate the right company values. Many employers focus on “hard” values (being ambitious or results-driven) while new employees are mainly looking for “soft” values. Warmth, humanity or willingness to help, for example. This leads Yves Pilet to conclude that employers “should look for a balance between hard and soft values. Don't choose soft values just because you have to, but because they can also be found in your organisation.”

Step 2: what's in it for me? 

Once your employer value proposition is clear, the next step is to communicate it to your employees. This is often a challenge for companies. Looking back on his experience as an employer branding specialist, Yves notes that employers rely too much on clichés such as "we are the market leader in our area", "we offer a competitive wage" or "we have the best training courses." 

These are all facts, but it's not the information employees are looking for. Interested candidates want to know what they will gain from accepting a new job offer. "What's in it for me?": this is the question they continuously ask themselves. To persuade interested candidates, Yves advises organisations to focus on the candidate in their job description, instead of themselves. Change "we" into "you": 

  • Replace "We are the market leader" with "We offer a challenging position with responsibility."
  • Rewrite "We offer a competitive salary" to "We are curious about your goals and aspirations."
  • Rephrase "We have the best training" as "We help you achieve your personal development goals."

Again, the same advice applies: practice what you preach. You have to be able to turn these promises into a reality. If not, your credibility is once again at stake. 

Step 3: to measure is to know 

The best way to know how employees perceive your company, is to directly ask them. So, as an employer, dare to ask yourself why your best employees left. Start the conversation, even if hierarchical structures don’t facilitate openness. The most difficult conversations provide the best insights.

Yves Pilet: "The main reason why employees leave is because of the employer himself.”  Employees have a tendency to leave their jobs because they actually feel that their employer does not sufficiently understand what they need in their job. And this is precisely the essence of employer branding: seeing what an employee needs and responding to it.


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